About Cat Hai
Set in karst-studded scenery and with a laid-back atmosphere, Cát Bà Island is an under-the-radar destination well worth adding to the itinerary. The biggest of the Cát Bà archipelago's 367 islands, it sits in the emerald-green Gulf of Tonkin and is a top base for rock climbing on the crags or exploring sandy beaches. The interior's not to be missed either, with plenty of scenic hikes to tackle through the lush rainforest of Cát Bà National Park – a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
You’ll find Cat Ba hostels with rooftop terraces and rooms offering views of fishing boats bobbing in Lan Ha Bay. You could also choose a beach cottage beside the sand or a kayak-friendly spot on a neighbouring isle with free pickup to get you there. Cat Ba Island hostels with restaurants serving Vietnamese dishes let you try local delicacies including meat-stuffed bahn mi sandwiches and fresh spring rolls filled with leafy green veggies.
Cát Bà Town is the main backpackers' area on the island. It's a short stroll from the ferry port and has bars, restaurants and hotels lining the seafront. Further out, in a peaceful spot, there's a remote bay next to Xuan Dam village. As well as the main Cát Bà Island, Lan Ha Bay is dotted with smaller, quieter isles such as Cat Ong, which has hiking trails and a couple of charming beaches.
In Cát Bà National Park it takes around 45 minutes to hike up to Ngu Lam Peak for unbeatable views over the ocean. While you're out and about, keep your eyes peeled for the Cát Bà langur, a golden monkey indigenous to the region. If you fancy testing the water, you can cruise around Lan Ha Bay on a single or multi-day boat trip, or spend time hopping between Cát Bà beaches 1, 2 and 3 on the southern shoreline.
Travellers can reach the island in around 4-5 hours from Hanoi by combined bus and boat transfer. You can also arrive DIY-style by heading to Ha Long City before making your way towards Tuần Châu Island by bus (around 20 minutes' drive) and then finishing the trip by boat. A speedboat from Hai Phong gets you to the island in style in about an hour. For the freedom to explore once you arrive, rent a motorbike in Cát Bà town.